This photo measures 2 3/8" X 3 1/2" overall. You really have to be a hardcore 1873 collector to appreciate what this is, but hopefully my breakdown of the numbers will do this photograph a little justice.
This is probably only one of a handful of 1870's vintage photographs of the earliest variation Model 1873 rifle in existence today. The proud owner of this rifle was nice enough to turn it sideways so we can see almost all of this rifle's early features and can pinpoint its date of manufacture down to within only one or two years.
For starters, it's a first model given the curvature of the lever and the hammer and tang screw positions...this places this gun within the first 30,000 made out of 720,000. Then, with the aid of a magnifying glass, you can see the side edge of the raised thumbprint on the dustcover...it's just a glint of light but there's no mistaking it once you see it....only the first 2500 Model 1873's had the raised thumbprint dust covers....but it gets even better. If you continue to look up the barrel, you will notice this rifle has a rear sight that is turned around backwards....this is correct for the very earliest 73 rifles made as they used Model 1866 Winchester barrel blanks that had already been dovetailed for the 66 ladder sight....Winchester simply turned the rear sight around backwards and cut the sight aperture on the opposite side or back of the sight. Only around the first 1300 rifles had the reversed rear sight so not only is this a first model with a raised thumbprint....its an early raised thumbprint which would have been made in either 1873 or the first half of 1874. The latter is more likely given only 126 were made in 1873. There is no doubt this is one of the very earliest Model 1873's produced which was the first practical repeating rifle in its day as it utilized central fire ammunition which was reloadable on the frontier.
The man is also carrying a revolver in his belt which we are guessing might be a Colt Open Top .22 Revolver.
Photograph is in Very good condition, much better than my photos show. There are a couple of bends in the bottom right corner and a slight bend to the top left corner....there is no damage to the image though which remains in remarkably good shape considering the age. Over the years, I've been very fortunate to find a handful of original photographs with owners displaying 1873 and 1876 rifles. Photos are far scarcer than the guns themselves but of everything I've ever found or seen in books, this is the earliest 1873 I've ever encountered in a photograph. It took Jim Gordon, the author of the Model 1873 Winchester book nearly 4 decades to find approximately 40 Early 1st Model 1873's with the desirable raised thumbprint dustcovers....about one per year...of those he collected, only a handful had reverse rear sights. These are very rare and expensive rifles but a photograph of this Early Variation not to mention, a photo that is good enough to reveal all of those features is a once in a lifetime find!